Small Containers – Figuring Nutrients

Q.  I live on a very small city plot and have almost no spots that get
southern exposure enough that veggies will grow. I have a couple of
questions.

1. I would like to put a grow-box in a 20″x90″ site for tomatoes.
This spot is between the house and the sidewalk. Will this work? How
do I figure for nutrients, watering, etc.?

2. The only other place I have is also small; however, it is a cement
slab. Will a grow-box work over cement? Would I have to increase the
heighth of the box to help accommodate for the lack of ground soil?

A.  What you have is a 7 1/2′-long Grow-Bed or box – you can grow in the dirt, or in a container.  It will certainly work, if you have full sunshine for 8+ hours.   You can grow 11 tomato plants in that space – enough to produce about 200# of fresh vine-ripened tomatoes!  Who said you can’t grow a garden in a small space!

If you’re going to grow in the dirt, just dig it thoroughly, eliminating all weeds.  While digging add 8 ounces of Pre-Plant Mix and 4 ounces of Weekly Feed Mix, and mix thoroughly with the soil.

Make 4″-high ridges around the edges by pulling soil from the center of the bed. You should end up with an actual planting area about 12″-wide and 7′ long.

Each time you feed, you should use 4 ounces of Weekly Feed Mix.  Watering should be every day, because the location will be very hot, with the house on one side and a sidewalk on the other.  In the heat of summer you may need to water a second time.  Apply enough water to leave 1″ of water standing in the bed.  If that doesn’t soak in within a couple of hours, then put less in until it does soak in within 2 hours maximum.

You can also build a Grow-Box on your cement slab.  Thousands of MM gardeners have grown this way, with no more height than 8″.  Watering daily is critical, because the sawdust/sand mixture won’t hold water the same way clay soil does.

Fertilize an 18″-wide bed or box with 1 ounce per foot of Pre-Plant Mix – one
time.  Weekly Feed should be applied at the rate of 1/2 ounce per foot of bed or box.

Most things you plant will be on both sides of the bed or box, so you are
actually feeding two rows of plants with that feeding regimen, unless it’s
tomatoes, cucumbers, or other climbing plants, which are only planted one row per 18″-wide bed or box.

You Can Live on What You Produce On Less Space Than You Ever Imagined!

While you endure the cold winter months why not plan for a really great garden next spring.  Maybe even one that could provide some income in addition to the food you eat yourselves!  Does anyone have children who need responsibility – and spending money?

To illustrate the potential, I’ll describe the yields achievable by growing one crop in a quarter-acre garden.  I realize that most of you may only want or be able to grow a garden of 10 or 20% this size, with multiple crops, however let’s tickle your imaginations!  I’m aware of many Mittleider gardeners who are growing commercially – some with multi-acre gardens.

Consider this: Just a quarter-acre of tomatoes grown properly using Dr. Mittleider’s instructions, and selling for only $.50 per pound, would yield $25,000 per year! Have I got your attention? Let’s see how it’s done.

A quarter-acre, or 10,390 square feet, will accommodate 78 30-foot rows of plants, grown in 4′ X 30′ Grow-Boxes, with 3 1/2′ side aisles, and 5′ end aisles. Planting 9″ apart gives you 41 plants per bed or 3,198 total.

By growing a tomato that averages 8 ounces (some varieties are even bigger), and growing vertically, each plant should produce 16# of fruit from July through October. How? Good varieties produce a cluster of 3-7 tomatoes every 5-7″ up a 7′ stem in 4 months of production. Using 4 per cluster and 12 clusters gives 48 tomatoes, and at 8 ounces each, your yield would be 24# per plant. Let’s reduce that by one third, to be conservative.

This amounts to 51,168 pounds of tomatoes (16# X 41 X 78) – or $25,584 at $.50 per pound. Who said you couldn’t live out of your garden! And similar results can be achieved growing right in the soil.

Now there certainly are costs, including labor, as there are in any serious endeavor. Start-up costs include 1) making and filling the boxes, 2) making T-Frames, 3) wires or pipes, and baling-twine strings, and 4) automating the watering. However these are one-time capital expenditures and will be more than recovered in the first year.

Next, suppose you’d like to increase your yield even more. After all, commercial hydroponic growers can produce 660,000 pounds of “plastic,” tasteless tomatoes per year on one acre. Of course, they have multi-million dollar investments in year-round greenhouses, automated systems, etc. By simply putting an arched PVC roof over each of your Grow-Boxes or soil-beds, as illustrated in the MittleiderMethodGardening group Photos section at Yahoo Groups, covering them with 6-mil greenhouse plastic, and then adding just a little heat on cold nights, you can lengthen your growing season by another two months, or 50%!

Now you’re looking at 75,000# of tomatoes per quarter-acre, or almost half the yield of the expensive hydroponic growers! But you’re growing “in the dirt”, because your boxes are open at the bottom, so your plants get all the natural nutrients available from the soil (producing better flavor). And you only use the plastic covering on cold nights during two or three months, so your plants benefit from direct sunlight as well, further improving their flavor.

Do you think these numbers are hard to believe? Just visit a greenhouse tomato operation and see tomato plants that are 20′ and 30′ long – still producing after more than a year!

Now let’s see what your family can do. And let me help guide you through the process – read the website FAQ’s at www.foodforeveryone.org or email me at jim@growfood.com. © 2006 – James B. Kennard

Jim Kennard, President of Food For Everyone Foundation, has a wealth of teaching and gardening training and experience upon which to draw in helping the Foundation “Teach the world to grow food one family at a time.” Jim has been a Mittleider gardener for the past twenty nine years; he is a Master Mittleider Gardening Instructor, and has taught classes and worked one-on-one with Dr. Jacob Mittleider on several humanitarian gardening training projects in the USA and abroad. He has conducted projects in Armenia, America, Madagascar, and Turkey by himself. He assists gardeners all over the world from the https://www.foodforeveryone.org website FAQ pages and free Gardening Group, and grows a large demonstration garden at Utah’s Hogle Zoo in his spare time.

Gardening Books, CDs and Software are available at https://www.foodforeveryone.org

Tomatoes – need a pollinator? What about cross-breeding?

Q.  I like 4 different tomato plants.  Can you grow a single plant and get fruit or do you need to have 2 or 3 of each to get a good crop?

A.  Tomatoes do not need a pollinator plant – they are self-fertile, meaning the flower has both male and female parts, so they do not need any outside help.

However, different tomato plants can get cross-bred by wind, bees, and of course human intervention (that’s how hybridization is accomplished).  Therefore, if you intend to save your tomatos for their seeds, you had better do two things.  1)  Start with heirloom plants – those which will breed true – rather than a hybrid, the seed from which will be something different.  2)  Plant your different varieties clear across the yard from each other, and then hope the bees don’t hybridize them anyway.